Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (Single)

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Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (Single)

Single Track from The Who - Genre: Rock - Release Year: 1970

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Review of "Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (Single)"

published 06/09/2010 | JOHNV
Member since : 13/07/2000
Reviews : 886
Members who trust : 237
About me :
2000-2015, 886 reviews. Thanks all - it was fun while it lasted, but nothing lasts forever.
Pro Lyrically and musically a tour de force
Cons It proved a very hard record to follow up
very helpful
Quality of Lyrics/Music
How does it compare to the artist's other releases?

"Almost like 'Animal Farm' set to music"

The original picture sleeve

The original picture sleeve

By 1971, The Who had released several very powerful and usually successful singles, to say nothing of albums and the rock opera ‘Tommy’. Early that year their songwriter and guitarist Pete Townshend planned to deliver what he intended to be their masterstroke, a similar work, ‘Lifehouse’. It was put on hold and never quite happened as intended (long saga which you can read elsewhere), but one of the songs salvaged from it became arguably the best record they ever made.

‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, a single lasting just over three minutes, appeared in July 1971 and deservedly made the UK Top 10, albeit at a modest No. 9. Wonderful as it was, only when the full eight and a half minutes was unveiled on their next album, ‘Who’s Next’ (their only British No.1 album ever), did we realise what we had been missing. (And when we saw the album sleeve, did we realise where they had been - er - it does rhyme - oh all right, going for a nice walk?)

Lyrically and musically, this is in a class of its own. As the title implies, it is basically a song about great expectations not being fulfilled. The first verse tells of revolution, about ’fighting in the streets, with the children at our feet, and the morals that we worship will be gone’. By the chorus, it is a case of ’I tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution,’ while ending, ’And I get on my knees and pray, we don’t get fooled again.’

By the last verse, revolution has taken pace, but nothing has changed. ’Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’ In several interviews over the years, Townshend explained that it is basically a warning in song that people can fight in the street for their beliefs, but they can’t expect it to change anything. In short, revolution is pointless because the new regime will be just as corrupt as the one it replaced. The lessons of the French and Russian revolutions, to name but two, are as good an example as any. George Orwell said the same, in a very different way, in ‘Animal Farm’. I sometimes think of the song as almost like ‘Animal Farm’ set to music.

Would it have been the same if Pete Townshend had decided to record it with his vocals and just an acoustic guitar? Probably not, although he has performed it live with and without the group in several different styles over the years. On record, and I’m talking about the full eight-minute version, it is simply awesome. One of the first records ever to benefit from the use of synthesiser programming, it begins with a guitar chord, then about thirty seconds of synth and organ, before guitar, bass and drums kick in and take us into the first verse. Roger Daltrey’s vocals are sheer passion throughout, and in the first instrumental break the guitar takes centre stage. Before the last verse comes Daltrey’s explosive scream – surely the greatest on record since Joe Cocker’s blood-curdling cry of rage on ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ three years before. After the last verse and chorus they’re not done yet, as an extended break consisting firstly of guitar and then almost entirely of synth and organ again (which could in lesser hands have become boring and monotonous, but never does), punctuated by the occasional power guitar chord and blast on the drums, brings us to another scream, and the finale of ’Meet the old boss’, etc. and a big musical finish.

It's very tempting to reproduce the entire lyrics here, but I won't and can't for obvious reasons - and they can easily be googled. If you want full technical details of the keyboards and synths used, down to the make and model numbers, try the wikipedia article on the song.

Apparently Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon were having lunch near the studio while Daltrey was working on his vocals over the backing track. When they first heard ‘that scream’, they thought he had fallen out big-time with the engineer.

Needless to say, throughout the group’s chequered history, it has always been a favourite on stage, particularly at Live Aid and Live 8. And although I haven’t heard it, Townshend performed an interesting version at an Amnesty International benefit in 1979 with classical guitarist John Williams. The song’s message is timeless, and musically it is astonishing. As a hit single, it might not have performed nearly so well as 'My Generation', but musically I think it's far superior.

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Comments on this review

  • silverstreak published 18/11/2010
    And, of course, you can hear strains of it every week if you watch CSI Miami!
  • Novabug published 13/10/2010
    A good review, My fave Who single as well!
  • Praski published 14/09/2010
    Top review - never a big fan but this is a great single.
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Product Information : Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (Single)

Manufacturer's product description

Single Track from The Who - Genre: Rock - Release Year: 1970

Product Details

Artist(s): The Who

Title: Won't Get Fooled Again

Release Date: 31/12/1970

Genre: Rock

Rights: 2003 Polydor Ltd. (UK)

Release Year: 1970


Listed on Ciao since: 13/08/2010